The Accountant and the Pimp

Who says all cars are the same these days? Two so-called premium manufacturers come to very different answers to the same question. 


One car is the epitome of crass, gimmicky style over substance. The other one is a sober piece of design that adds just the right amount of adornment for it not to appear dreary.

One car comes from one of the world’s proudest marques, a company of great heritage with a reputation for substance and excellence in every area. The other car is a VW Golf in a different set of clothes.

The automotive realm has turned into quite a strange place, has it not?


The above photo was first published through an obscure photographic blog you may or may not choose to visit at

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

14 thoughts on “The Accountant and the Pimp”

  1. I know which I prefer and is probably one of my choice pieces of mainstream car design at present.

  2. I think I’ve noted here before that one of our company cars in Istanbul was a 1,5 DCI CLA in AMG trim. By some margin the most uncomfortable car I’ve ever been in or driven myself. When I was out back your teeth got a seeing too and it was impossible to use a mobile phone to type anything. That is of course if you got in without hitting your head on that stupidly low rear roof and managed to find space for your legs. A noddy car.

    I’m based in Dubai now and here I’ve rented an E250 Coupe, an A250 Sport, two C200s and from this Thursday a GLC 250 4Matic. None of them had AMG badges or suspension and every single one of them were utterly superb cars to drive. Compliant and comfy when you needed them to be, yet keeping themselves totally flat when corning the awesome road up Jebel Jais – the highest peak in the UAE. Google that road – it is utter car nirvana.

    I’d have thought the A250 would have similar handling to the CLA, in it being the same car just with an even more stunted tail but it was lovely. 0-60 in 6,6 seconds helped of course. It is one of the first cars I’ve ever driven where I actively used the steering wheel paddles as there was simply no delay in using that and the gears changing. That was really satisfying. My DSG Yeti has instant changes when you leave it in D or S but the moment you go to Tiptronic mode it strangely lags in the changes. Very unsatisfying.

    I loved them all but have to say quality was not always what you’d expect from a Mercedes. The E had some weird fitting “leather” trim on the dash, one of the Cs had bulging leather on the steering wheel and a sunroof that couldn’t open with a mere 30,000km on the clock and some silver trim around the centre console already pealing. Every single surface in the Cs are also manmade. From the (beautiful matt black Ash “wood”, to the red Artico “leather” seats to the painted on, fake stitching on the dashboard. It matters not. The C has by some margin the best interior of the lot I have driven. The GLC will trump that this Thursday since it has a 98% C-dash bar the stupid L-shaped glove box that wants to eat you and prevent your hand from being able to comfortably reach into the glove box when in the driver’s seat.

    C-class glove box:

    GLC-class glove box:

    But back to the photo: even with non AMG suspension, the CLA is a severely compromised car relative the very beautiful A3 Sedan. The latter alas has been ruined from the front somewhat by the recent facelift.

  3. Do people who would like themselves to be thought of as decent, humanitarian, well-meaning members of society actually ask their fellow humans to sit in the rear of the Mercedes. I can’t really criticise people if their aesthetic differs from mine, so if their lives are made better by the random creases on Senuuuual Puuuurity (oooh Doctor), who am I to judge? But the moment they ask me to put myself on the back seat of their CLA (I did get it right, didn’t i?) would be the day when liberal tolerance turns to ill-intended rancour.

    On another Mercedes matter, I hadn’t noticed that the new C Class, (which I don’t mind too much but, unlike others here, I preferred its predecessor) that I’ve only seen with the usual ‘sporty’ grille of lesser Mercs is also available with the full Burgermeister chrome jobby, topped with a star. It doesn’t improve it.

    1. I’ve only ever seen two of the new C in grandpa spec like that. The one I regularly saw and one of those covers on the grille was permanently stuck in the open position – at first I thought the car was probably just parked and was cooling hence it was open – but the exact same vent was open every time I walked past. Looked terrible. So yes all those solid silver bits you see on that grandpa grille can in fact open and close. Good luck to owner five to actually be able to cool his or her engine!

    1. Hey Johann, enough of the Grandpa Grille thing. Although I’m not one, I’m certainly old enough to be a grandpa and I wouldn’t be seen dead with one of those in front of me. At least not unless my executors were generous enough to tick the ‘Full Mercedes Cortege’ box on the funeral director’s order sheet.

      Despite all the (until recently fully deserved) stick about their styling, Mercedes still employ a lot of clever engineers. But you can’t help but wonder at the way their expertise is focussed. It seems that Airpanels only exist on the less sporty models. Is there logic behind that, or is it just a sign that their customers demand clever gadgetry to be on display, even when in practical terms it’s near useless?

    2. Hehe. It is very ugly. Even more so in the metal -oops I mean plastic. And yes it is strange how they proclaim the virtues of this technology (which some versions of the humble Ford Focus also have) and yet I guess 95% of C-class cars don’t feature it nor did they even attempt to make it work on the more aggressive grilles.

  4. I find myself in the minority regarding the grandfather grille.
    Johann: that’s a car sickness road. It’s windier than Amalfi which was too much for me.

    1. Some of the roads proclaimed as the “perfect driver’s road” are mountain passes with severe curves you have to slow down for significantly. Go, stop near dead, turn, go, repeat. No fluency in that. Nope, this road is fluid. It has about two or three sharp corners (that you seem to dislike!) but the rest are beautifully flowing curves you slow down for of course, but you do not come to a near standstill and turn back on yourself. And with two lanes going up and one coming down you have plenty of space to widen your arcs as you go up and you can easily overtake slower traffic. (And in my view then of course it is more fun going up than coming down – one because you have more space and two because the car’s engine is heard more than when you go down and basically use no throttle in places).

      You’ll enjoy it trust me. It is by some margin the most perfect road I’ve even been on.

  5. Johann, I wonder if the perfect roads in Dubai helped give you a favourable impression of these cars? On crumbling European roads, the ride might be harsher.

    Anyhow, to the point: the A3 sedan is a fine-looking thing, the A class family is awful. And the trad Mercedes grille on both C and E is now hideous. Why?

    1. ’cause Gorden (sic) has finally kicked the Mercedes brand off its high horse.

      They’re now a car brand like any other, just more vulgar. And people love them for it.

  6. Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, the new A-Class must have been tough on Mercedes’ undoubtedly talented engineers. Lacking synergy with other products in the MB range, the A-Class required the simultaneous development of an all new FWD platform and the launch of many derivatives, all of which were needed to create volume. With demand unproven, the huge investment represented a massive gamble, and you can tell that Mercedes’ accountants pawed over every nut and bolt looking to claw back costs. I suspect that once the platform is amortised and the sales figures quantified, the second generation A-Class will be more in line with customer’s expectations of what a junior Benz can and should be.

    Regarding the C-Class, can you spec AMG bodywork without sports suspension? That would be my choice. I might be wrong, but I believe BMW now give the M-Sport styling pack and sports suspension two separate tick boxes on their options lists.

  7. Seeing the masses of ((C/G)L)As on our roads, It seems that Mercedes already quite well knows the expectations of what has become their clientele. Vulgar and aggressive trumps over style and substance today.

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